BUSD Unveils Design to Replace Berkeley High’s Old Gym

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 07, 2008 - 09:01:00 PM

Parents, teachers and athletic coaches crowded inside the Berkeley High School library Wednesday for their first look at the Berkeley Unified School District’s new design for classrooms and sports facilities to replace the landmarked Old Gym on Milvia Street. 

The design, district officials said, is consistent with the one outlined in the South of Bancroft Master Plan and mimics certain elements from the Berkeley High campus. 

It is scheduled to go to the Berkeley Board of Education for approval on Aug. 20. 

The district also plans to build a new stadium which will replace the old bleachers and upgrade the current softball field to regulation size. 

Some parents expressed concern about the proposed bleachers, which they suggested should be built at an adequate height to allow them to view the games properly. 

“We want to bring the south of campus in conformance with the northern part,” said Jose Vilar of Emeryville-based Baker Vilar Architects, the firm hired by the district to design the project. 

Vilar said one of the goals of the project was to build a sports quad which would be used for physical education, basketball, and pre- and post-game activities. 

The new athletic facility will have seating, athletic offices, training rooms, ticket sales, coaches’ offices and replace the old bleachers, he said. 

The three-story classroom building—which will have 15 classrooms—and one-story gym will replace the Old Gym, he said.  

The new gym building will have a 7,100-square-foot regular gym and a 3,238-square-foot “soft” gym.  

The three-story building will have five classrooms on the ground floor—near the entrance—along with the gyms, six classrooms and fitness center equipment on the second floor and four classroom on the third floor with a view of San Francisco and the bay. 

Some Berkeley High teachers are currently holding classes in portables at Washington Elementary because of a severe space crunch. 

“The school district is adding 10 classrooms as we speak,” said district Superintendent Bill Huyett, referring to the six new portables and four classrooms that were being renovated. “We will also be reviewing classroom needs every year. We want the community to know that we will have enough classrooms between now and when the construction for the new classroom building starts.” 

The building’s windows resemble those of the Old Gym, Vilar said. 

“We are trying to locate the new classrooms as close as possible to the other academic buildings and provide access through the quad,” he said.  

Slemp told parents that the Donahue Gym, which is around 10,000 square feet, would continue to function even after the new gyms were built. 

“The key piece here is a philosophical commitment to have a clean space that is well maintained bringing the whole community to the campus,” Slemp said. 

“The whole project is going to be seismically retrofitted, energy efficient and accessible.” 

Vilar stressed that landscaping inside the campus and along Bancroft Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way was an important part of the project. 

“There will be ornamental fences and trees along Milvia,” he said. “The fences along MLK and Channing Way will have a four to five foot setback that will make the streets look better. We want to create a visually pleasing campus setting.” 

Vilar said the new classroom building does not represent any particular architectural style. 

“We are trying to match the way the school looks right now to unify the design,” he said, adding that he had taken the yellow columns from the high school’s swimming pool and used it in the proposed design. 

The new stadium is scheduled to be built between April 2010 and June 2011, Lew Jones, the district’s director of facilities said. 

“Before we tear down the Old Gym, everything in it, with the exception of the warm water pool, will be replaced in the new bleacher building, he added.  

The demolition of the Old Gym would take place between June 2011 and November 2011, followed by the construction of a new classroom building and gymnasium from January 2012 to August 2013.  

The district has no funds to build the new classroom building, Jones said. 

Berkeley Unified passed a resolution recently to work with the city to relocate the warm water pool from the Old Gym to an appropriate location.  

The master plan includes an opportunity for the district to work out a “property arrangement” with the city so that the city may construct a “replacement warm water pool.”  

The resolution calls for the city to prepare a ballot measure for the June 2010 election to improve the three community pool centers which are on district property, including the warm pool, and find a new site for the warm pool. 

The new project proposes to take away the current parking inside the campus. 

“There will be a place to drop off students but no parking inside the campus,” said Slemp. “And being downtown, parking will certainly be an issue.”